Pushing Athletes to Tears: Who is to Blame?

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Posted by Hayleigh Syens

It’s tradition for athletes at the Olympics to be interviewed after they medal (or fail to medal) on an event. Bode Miller, after tying for bronze in the men’s Super-G, went over to NBC reporter Christin Cooper for his interview. He finished the interview in tears.

Miller mentioned that it had been a tough year since his brother had passed and Cooper asked, “Bode, you’re showing so much emotion down here. What’s going through your mind?”

Miller answered the question gracefully, but Cooper continued to push with more and more questions about how Miller was feeling and about Miller’s brother. After Cooper ended the interview with Miller doubled over in tears, the NBC cameras continued to follow Miller.

The video of the interview went viral and provoked outrage from many, saying that Cooper had gone too far and blaming her for attacking Miller. Miller came out on his Twitter account to defend her:

I think that this was the fault of higher-ups at NBC. Cooper was assigned to follow up on this story about Miller and his brother. She was just doing what she was told and trying to get the story.

The main focus should have been on the great race Miller had just skied and not on his personal life. This was a big mistake on NBC’s part. I think following Miller around just to film more of his emotional reaction was also crossing the line and added nothing to the story. Considering the negative backlash from NBC’s audience, Miller’s raw emotions were clearly not what the people wanted to see.

Focus more on the races, NBC. I watch the Olympics for the competitions, not because I want to see athletes pushed to tears. Will the media ever learn?

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5 responses to “Pushing Athletes to Tears: Who is to Blame?

  1. Jennifer Gardner

    We talked about this in my J66 class, and people had some interesting insights. While Miller defended Cooper for doing her job as a journalist, I strongly believe she overstepped her bounds. There was absolutely no need for her to keep pushing and pushing the issue. I think the first question about his brother was absolutely allowable, but it makes me angry that she kept trying to pry for details. If you watch the interview itself, the camera keeps following Miller as he moves away and cries and I felt that was a huge invasion of privacy. NBC should get a slap on the wrist for airing the footage of him obviously trying to get away from the cameras and yet they still followed him.

  2. There was a humorous comment on one of NPR’s programs that said that they had never heard of an Olympian who had lived a disaster-free life. Thinking back, I realize that I have heard the stories of tragedy have outnumbered the stories of success tenfold in athletes lives. This formula of presenting and exploiting the tragedies of athletes has been at the root of sports coverage for as long as I have been alive at least. At this journalist’s misfortune, because I also believe that NBC was pushing her to ask questions, we have found that people simply want to sometimes draw the line between the athletic and personal lives of athletes.

  3. I believe that there is a time and a place for everything, and in journalism especially. While there are those in the industry who will do whatever it takes for the story, pushing the boundaries and making unclear what is acceptable behavior and what is not, I believe appropriateness is crucial when it comes to sensitive personal matters. I believe that Cooper should have taken the hint from Miller and not pushed as much as she had. One cannot help but to question her code of ethics. This turned from a potentially sentimental and empathetic interview into an inconsiderate and inappropriate tabloid farce within seconds. I believe more training is needed in order for Cooper to be assigned this type of venue/beat in the future. The reporter and NBC are both at fault here.

  4. I also thought this was completely inappropriate and overstepping bounds. I think this is a crucial issue that comes up very often in sports journalism: what are we covering? The sport/event/match/game, or the athlete? If NBC wanted comments on Miller’s personal life, they should have scheduled a special interview. This is the Olympics, not Oprah. Miller was clearly emotional and entirely unprepared to face the insensitive questions he was confronted to.

  5. I agree with everyone’s comments on this topic. I watched the interview a couple times and was aiming to get a better view from both sides of the microphone, but I am still on the same page as most. She clearly took it a bit too far and timing is everything; in this case, it wasn’t the right time. I understand a journalist’s yearn for that unforgettable interview, however, enough is enough. Miller was clearly distraught and overwhelmed with everything in that moment and it was completely selfish for NBC to allow this to happen. A scheduled interview on a later date perhaps, or maybe an ounce of empathy could have helped. Miller could have lashed out at them for this one. There is no wonder there is such a conversation about this interview. It was simply too dang personal.
    Again, we are focusing too much on athlete’s personal lives rather than their talent or dedication to their sport. This is happening more and more in our media nowadays.

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